Frameworks

PERMA

Despite sterling academic credentials, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman has been unabashed in his embrace of a career pop psychology. (“‘I’m rich,’ I announced to my mother on the phone.”)

Seligman might be best known for PERMA, his acronym for summarizing the elements that, according to a body of psychological research, correlate with a happy life.

The buckets are as follows:

  • Positive emotions: feeling good
  • Engagement: finding flow states
  • Relationships: making authentic connections
  • Meaning: having purpose
  • Achievement: feeling a sense of accomplishment

I’m not totally sold on this framework as a one size fits all guide to living well. For one, it has nothing to say regarding health and fitness, widely acknowledged to have an enormous impact on our mental health and happiness.

But the model does seem to be grounded in a fairly robust body of psychological research. And I have found it useful as a framework for quick check-ins regarding one’s current lifestyle.

It can even serve as a simple short-term planning tool. What activities can I undertake today that will help me to feel good in the moment? To get into a state of flow? To connect with family and friends? To make progress on my life’s mission? To get some wins under my belt?

Such an approach seems likely to yield a pretty good day, week, month, year and beyond.

Frameworks

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

As its title suggests, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, by Australian former hospice nurse Bronnie Ware, is focused on people’s thoughts and feelings, at the end of their lives, about what might have been.

It’s a sombre subject, but also a helpful one, because of course the book is also very much about what might yet be in the lives of its readers.

The top five regrets discussed in the book are as follows:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so much
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier

These painful observations can be reframed as directives to those who are not yet facing the imminent end of their lives:

  • Live a life true to yourself
  • Don’t work too much
  • Express your feelings
  • Stay in touch with friends
  • Let yourself be happy

For those seeking to live a life at the lower end of the regret scale, these feel like useful commandments to return to and assess repeatedly as one moves along on one’s own life’s journey, hopefully with many milestones still to come.